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ASA Monographs 24

Reason and Morality

Edited by

Joanna Overing

Reason and Morality

Tavistock Publications London and New York

First published in 1985 by Tavistock Publications Ltd 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection ofthousands of eBooks please go to” Published in the USA by Tavistock Publications in association with Methuen, Inc. 29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001 © 1985 Association of Social Anthropologists All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented,including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publicatlon Data Reason and morality.—(ASA monographs; 24) 1. Rationalism I. Overing, Joanna II. Series 153.4′3 BF441 ISBN 0-422-79800-2 ISBN 0-422-79810-X Pbk Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Main entry undertitle: Reason and morality. (ASA monographs; 24) Papers from an ASA conference held at the London School of Economics in Apr. 1984. Includes bibliographies and index. 1. Ethnophilosophy—Congresses. 2. Reason—Cross-cultural studies—Congresses. 3. Cultural relativism—Congresses. I. Overing, Joanna. II. Association of Social Anthropologists of the Commonwealth. III. Series: A.S.A. monographs; 24GN468. R32 1985 301′.01 85–12637 ISBN 0-203-45153-8 Master e-book ISBN


ISBN 0-203-45807-9 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0-422-79800-2 (Print Edition) ISBN 0-422-79810-X (pbk.)


List of contributors Preface 1 2 3 4 5 6 Introduction Joanna Overing Degrees of intelligibility Raymond Firth Social anthropology and the decline of Modernism Edwin Ardener Facts and theories: saying andbelieving Sybil Wolfram Is it rational to reject relativism? Paul Hirst

vii viii 1 29 46 70 84

Anthropos through the looking-glass: or how to teach the Balinese to 103 bark Mark Hobart Reason, emotion, and the embodiment of power David Parkin Today I shall call him ‘Mummy’: multiple worlds and classificatory confusion Joanna Overing Fire, meat, and children: the Berti myth, male dominance,and female power Ladislav Holy The Brahmanical tradition and the technology of the intellect Jonathan Parry The Law is a ass’: an anthropological appraisal Michael Saltman Maori epistemologies Anne Salmond 134 150

7 8



10 11 12

198 223 237


Name index Subject index

261 266

List of contributors

Joanna Overing Senior Lecturer in the Social Anthropology of LatinAmerica, London School of Economics Raymond Firth Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of London Edwin Ardener University Lecturer in Social Anthropology; Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford Sybil Wolfram Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford; Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Oxford Paul Hirst Professor of Social Theory, Birkbeck College, University of LondonMark Hobart Lecturer in Anthropology with reference to South East Asia, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London David Parkin Professor of Anthropology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London Ladislav Holy Reader in Social Anthropology, University of St Andrews Jonathan Parry Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, London School of Economics AssociateProfessor of Anthropology, University of Haifa Michael Saltman Anne Salmond Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Auckland


The ASA conference on the topic to which this volume is devoted, originally entitled ‘Rationality and Rationales’, took place in April, 1984 and was in celebration of the Malinowski Centennial year. Appropriately it was held at the London School of Economics...
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